Christian Business: “Is This Contradiction?”

I spoke to a group of bright Christian business students at Texas A&M University on Saturday. I explained the core message of Jesus in the first session. And in the second session we talked about how the teaching of Jesus would affect their lives in business: I showed them pictures and told them stories from around the world of injustice and poverty I’ve seen caused or exacerbated by American corporate practices.

Kids born without ears because a U.S. company mines nickel in the Dominican Republic in a (cheaper) way it’s not allowed to back home.

Boy named Gabriel in the Dominican Republic born without ears

Children eating from a dump while their parents harvest sugar cane for Florida Crystals for less than $2 a day.

Girl foraging for food at dump in Dominican Republic

Communities without water, roads and schools because U.S. “aid” funded a nation’s military complex instead of improvements to infrastructure and social services.

Ethiopian slum

We talked about how these Christian business students could should use their wealth, time and talents to combat or prevent these inequities in the future. For starters, Christians ought to hold themselves to a Law higher than those of their government. What’s legal isn’t necessarily faithful. What’s faithful isn’t often the most profitable.

Then they asked questions.

A girl on the front row who’d been taking notes feverishly, raised her hand. She began to speak, sometimes leaving out articles, unable to pronounce the letter “l.” She was an international student eager to learn about Jesus but troubled by the consequences of obeying him.

She opened one hand, looked at it and began her question. “You say good for Christian to put others before them self and give.” She opened her other hand. “In business we told to take advantage of competition and all opportunity to maximize profit. Is this contradiction?” she asked, smashing both hands together into a crumpled awkward lump.

“Yes,” I said.

I’m not sure what I saw in her eyes in that silent moment. I think it was sadness.